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by OPOVV, ©2020

Wikimedia Commons, CC by SA 4.0 International

(Mar. 11, 2020) — “You want to hear what I’ve got to say or not? I’d just as soon take a nooner*; all the same to me.”

“No; no, go on. Try and keep your mouth shut, Jerry.”

“Look, I’m keeping it low-key; if I told the story of how it really went down you wouldn’t believe it; I mean, really.”

“Go on.”

“Okay. So, I was dragging this guy who got hit in the leg: the bullet missed the bone and the artery but went clean through and he was in bad shape: I had to drag him but he could push with his other leg so that helped a lot.”

“Was it hot?”

“The ground was surprisingly warm and dry. It was kind-of clear and I remember biding my time when I was going to sneak up on the sentry, so I’m looking at the ground and noticed the reflections off of the backs of the ants and beetles. I was looking for snakes, which is why I was really paying close attention to what was crawling on the ground. Anyway, I was really ticked at them for posting a kid as the lookout; I mean, he had to be around twelve, but then again maybe he was older; but then again maybe not.”

“That’s right; they can look twenty and be thirty, at least the guys. And even when they’re old they’re no taller than when they were just kids.”

“That’s what I thought; I’ll never know. You know, watching those black-and-white World War II movies when I was a kid sure helped: left hand over the mouth and, well, fast and quiet. I did a couple of them before we let loose with, first, the grenades, and then just aimed in the general direction of where they had their camp.  That was their mistake: they should’ve taken us out then and there, when they had the chance, instead of waiting for morning.”

“But if they didn’t wait you’d be dead.”

“That is true: but I had to earn my life by taking them out. Anyway, they tried to fight back but we were so overly effective the first minute that the battle was over pretty darn quick. I mean, like, we didn’t save anything for later because we knew if we didn’t get it done right then and there, there wouldn’t be any later.”

“So when did this revelation come to you?”

“Not ‘to’ me: unto me. Like it was in the Bible, near the front.”

“Old Testament.”

“That’s right. I was pretty exhausted and we didn’t find as much water as we prayed for. I was thinking of, I don’t know, gallons of ice-cold spring water. I remember the best water I ever drank, it was in Michigan, straight from the well.”

“You mean it was like that?”

“Anything but. It was warm, but it was wet and it tasted like sour milk poured over warm leather but, like I said, it was wet.”

“And then what?”

“I was laying there, waiting for the sun to rise and thinking about bullets flying through the air and all the things in the universe that can get in the way of a speeding bullet, including the ground.”

“That’s a little intense.”

“You telling me? And then I was thinking that every bullet that we fired, every bit of metal that went flying off into space from a grenade, well, they had to land somewhere, right?”

“Oh, so you were thinking about the ants and the beetles?”

“That’s right, I was. And I was thinking about life and we think we’re so high and mighty compared to an ant, yet we are exactly equal to the susceptibility to have our life ended by a random piece of metal flying through the air. It just hit me that way. I don’t know if I’m making any sense or not.”

“Perfect sense; go on.”

“Alright. So, I’m thinking that it doesn’t mean anything. I mean, they’re dead and I’m alive but it doesn’t mean anything, not really.”

“Survivor’s remorse.”

“Maybe, I don’t know. I thought about it but I just don’t know. I mean, the randomness of it all really got to me.”

“You were under a strain; I mean, you defeated the enemy.”

“Yes, we did, but think of all the millions of things that could’ve gone wrong, starting with any of the sentries’ crying out.”

“That really bothers you, doesn’t it? Never knowing if you killed a kid or not.”

“No, because I didn’t have a choice; I couldn’t even speak his language but if I could have I would have liked to have been able to wake everyone up and say, ‘If you promise to not bother us we won’t kill you all’, but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I wish I would’ve, or could’ve: I really do.”

“So that’s why you had those nightmares for seventeen years?”

“I don’t think so, not specifically: my nightmares were born out of helplessness. Once in a while I think of a beetle being maimed by a spent bullet or a piece of grenade falling on it. I don’t know. I used to be really confused, but now I’ve reached the point in believing a speeding bullet is more of a metaphor on death than it is an instrument of death, if that makes a lick of sense.”

“I guess when your number’s up, that’s it.”

“I guess.”

“You ever have this conversation with anyone else? Ever tell your wife this?”

“She wouldn’t understand a word of it. Only guys who should’ve died have a clue.”


[*nooner: short nap after noon chow.]

Reflections of My Life” (4:11)


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